Australia to China, after breaking the belt and road transport

“This scheme is very focused on Australia’s national interest,” said the Australian foreign minister.

Beijing, China:

China said on Thursday that Australia’s abrupt cancellation of a Belt and Road Initiative deal risks “serious damage” to relations and warned of retaliation, but Canberra insisted it would not be attacked.

The federal government reached an agreement with Victoria on Wednesday late, with action justified by the defense minister as necessary to prevent Australia from hosting a giant infrastructure scheme “used for propaganda”.

Australia has rejected the state’s decision to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BIS) – the pilot of President Xi Jinping’s geostrategic vision for the Asia-Pacific region – saying the agreement is incompatible with Australia’s foreign policy.

While relations were unusual – investigating the origins of the coronavirus and Canberra’s blockade of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei – Defense Minister Peter Dutton said Canberra was “concerned” by local governments concluding such agreements with Beijing.

“We can’t allow this type of compact … to appear because they are used for propaganda purposes and we will not just allow that to happen,” he told local radio.

Dutton said the government’s problem was not with the Chinese people, but rather with “the values ​​or virtues or perspectives of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Australia adopted new powers last year – widely regarded as targeting China – which allow it to drop any agreements between state authorities and foreign countries deemed to threaten the national interest.

Canberra’s first target was the BIS, a vast investment network that critics say covers Beijing to create a geopolitical and financial leverage.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision “followed” on his government’s commitment to ensuring that Australia has a consistent foreign policy, which strives for a “world that seeks a balance in favor of freedom”.

The schism between Australia and the largest export market widened on Thursday, while Beijing rejected the abrupt cancellation and warned it would affect trust between the two countries.

The move “has poisoned mutual trust … and severely damaged China-Australia relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a briefing in Beijing.

“China reserves the right to take further action in response.”

Earlier, Dutton said he would be “very disappointed” if China retaliated, but replied that Australia “will not be attacked by anyone.”

“We will defend what we believe and that is exactly what we have done here,” he said.

“Misleading relationships”

The BIS is the showpiece of Xi’s vision for Asia, a network of ports, railways, economic zones and other infrastructure investments to link the continent and beyond it more closely in China’s trade orbit.

It was unclear whether the Victoria agreement had “any ongoing projects or whether investments have been made,” Peter Cai, an Australia-China relations specialist at the Lowy Institute, told AFP.

But Canberra’s bold move is an indicator “of how foreign relations or political instability can affect the influence of China’s global infrastructure,” he said.

China has already imposed tariffs on more than a dozen Australian industries, including wine, barley and coal, in what many see as a punishment for Canberra’s increasingly assertive stance towards its largest trading partner. .

Australia has angered China by calling for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, banning controversial telecommunications giant Huawei from building Australia’s 5G network and tightening foreign investment laws for corporations.

Other agreements between foreign powers and local governments are still being examined, and Canberra could still target the presence of Confucius institutes supported by the Chinese government at public universities in Australia.

Critics say the institutes, which have been the subject of controversy on some campuses, promote the autonomous version of the Chinese culture and history of the Communist Party.

(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and is published in a syndicated stream.)